Trump Grants Clemency to Rod Blagojevich, Pardons Bernie Kerik

It's a big pardon day for Donald Trump. He commuted the 14 year sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who has served 8 years, and pardoned former junk bond king Michael Milken (who served 22 months and was released in 1993) and former NYC police chief Bernie Kerik (convicted of tax fraud for which he served 3 years of his four year sentence).

I wrote about the Blagojevich trial extensively and have always believed his 14 year sentence was unduly severe.

In 2010, Bernie Kerik reported to prison to serve a 48 month sentence for 48 month sentence for crimes related to under-reporting the value of renovations on a personal residence and making false statements on his Homeland Security application. (He had been nominated for Chief of HHS by his former buddy Rudy Giuliani).

Trump also pardoned a former NFL guy I never heard of who backed one of his fundraisers and former junk bond king Michael Milken (famously perp-walked while Rudy was Mayor).

Blago was on Celebrity Apprentice -- he and Trump interacted. Either the Times got this quote wrong or Trump has lost his marbles:

“Yes, we commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich,” Mr. Trump told reporters just before boarding Air Force One for a four-day trip to the west coast where he is scheduled to hold three campaign rallies. “He served eight years in jail, a long time. He seems like a very nice person, don’t know him.”

The Court of Appeals struck 5 of Blago's counts of conviction, most if not all relating to the supposed sale of the senate seat. It found the jury instructions on these counts improper, as they could have allowed the jury to convict on lawful log-rolling rather than illegal bribery. More on that here. The judge on resentencing gave him the same 14 year sentence.

I have no problem with Trump's clemency decisions -- I wish there were more of them and that some went to people with no connection to him. I think he's trying to show that he, not judges, controls the criminal justice system. Donald Trump may win against Congress but I think the federal judiciary will stand up to his attempts to interfere in pending cases.

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    Yay! (none / 0) (#1)
    by Chuck0 on Tue Feb 18, 2020 at 02:21:15 PM EST
    More pardons and clemency for high profile white guys.

    The other three commutation recipients (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Peter G on Tue Feb 18, 2020 at 07:42:49 PM EST
    besides Blogojevich today are women of color (two hispanic, one black). Sponsored by this group.

    sorry about misspelling (none / 0) (#8)
    by Peter G on Tue Feb 18, 2020 at 08:56:11 PM EST
    Blago's name. And by pointing out this fact about today's other commutation recipients I don't for a moment mean to suggest that the current Administration's process is a good one or that their choices represent good clemency policy. (I just think that while criticizing Tr*mp for his endless lies and favoritism, we have to adhere ourselves to a high standard of truth, or we are truly lost.) There are thousands of unjust sentences in the system being served by folks who do not have a way of getting Tr*mp's personal and whimsical attention. And more thousands who have fully served their sentences and become positive forces in their families and communities, who deserve pardons. There was a system, called the Office of Pardon Attorney, in the DOJ for receiving and vetting applications from those folks. Sometime around the Bush I administration, it got sidetracked by politics. Each administration since has been somewhat better or somewhat worse, and none as bad as the present one (which does not use the regular channel at all), but none has reverted to the historical norm, which was a steady pipeline of fairly reviewed cases, leading to hundreds of grants per year (of either sentence commutations or full pardons), every year.

    I was just going to say the same thing. (none / 0) (#2)
    by leap on Tue Feb 18, 2020 at 04:55:18 PM EST
    Yay for corrupt and connected white men. What about the hundreds of thousands of deserving other Americans? Too bad, so sad.

    Just warming up. (none / 0) (#3)
    by KeysDan on Tue Feb 18, 2020 at 05:26:58 PM EST
    Stone, Manafort, Rudy, Flynn, Jared's father...the swampier the more likely.  Not so much justice as flaunting of the rule of law.

    Rod Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office by Illinois' Democratic legislature. His attempt to sell the US Senate seat vacated by Obama upon his election as president was an unlawful and corrupt abuse of power--a legal prerogative used for illegal and corrupt purposes. And, his shakedown of Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital for his own private benefit was the hardihood of public corruption.

    Trump has not a drop of empathy, but he probably saw Blago as a cohort in victimhood. After all, Blago's brazen corruption was conducted on the telephone....crimes do not count on the phone, always a "perfect call".  

    Trump believes, no doubt, that Democrats will greet the commutation of Blago's sentence with glee. The same miscalculation made with the firing of Comey. Surely, the Democrats will be delighted that Comey was gone after his egregious handling of Hillary's email investigation.

    However, as discussed previously on TL, Blagojevich's sentence was too long, especially after the Court of Appeals struck the five counts. But, the years served, as it turns out, was about the right term.

    Pardons (none / 0) (#4)
    by FlJoe on Tue Feb 18, 2020 at 06:12:42 PM EST
    for fun and profit
    For the most part, these pardons affected people who have received praise and sympathy from pundits on Fox News. But one pardon in particular stands out: that of construction executive Paul Pogue, who was sentenced to three years probation after evading $473,000 in taxes.

    According to The Daily Beast, "Pogue's family has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct contributions and in-kind air travel to the Trump Victory Fund. Beginning in August 2019, Ben Pogue -- CEO of Pogue Construction and son of Paul Pogue -- and his wife Ashleigh made over $200,000 in contributions to the campaign."

    I worked really hard and honestly tried to do a good job, but it got terribly frustrating to watch people repeatedly come in through the back door to get what otherwise couldn't be gotten through regular channels without drawing serious scrutiny. And there was precious little I could do about it.

    Sweet Mother of Gawd, Blago put the screws to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago while he was governor -- a friggin' children's hospital! I mean, who DOES that? He even attempted to strongarm MLB's Chicago Cubs, who needed state approval for the renovation of Wrigley Field. (You try to shake down the Chicago Mob like that, and you'll soon find yourself chained to cement blocks at the bottom of Lake Michigan or the Rock River.)

    Hardly surprising, I know, in a state where five of the last dozen governors have done time behind bars for corruption, but Jeez, Jeralyn! No, 14 years wasn't excessive for violating the public trust so freely and cavalierly as he did. Somebody needs to draw the line in Illinois, which is one of the two most corrupt states in the union (Louisiana being the other) -- and if the feds won't do it, then who will?

    Speaking for myself only in this respect, Blago is the sort of scumbag who gives the general public a valid reason to be cynical about our elected officials. One of the primary reasons why our country is in its present fix is because far too many of us have developed a rather remarkable penchant for tolerating, excusing and enabling public corruption. And now with Trump in high office, that knack for looking the other way has come full circle to bite us hard in the a$$. These people are just rubbing our face in it.

    Now, dammit, where's my bong when I need it?

    That would be Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Feb 18, 2020 at 07:11:10 PM EST
    Jeralyn: "Trump also pardoned a former NFL guy I never heard of who backed one of his fundraisers[.]"

    The now-former owner of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers pleaded guilty to a felony corruption charge in 1998 for having failed to report that he had been solicited for a $400,000 bribe by then-Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards (D), in exchange for a successful riverboat casino license application to the State Gaming Commission. He subsequently paid the bribe and received the license.

    And yes, Edwin Edwards was a Democrat. This occurred not too long after he had defeated Republican candidate (and erstwhile KKK leader) David Duke in the 1991 Louisiana gubernatorial election, having literally campaigned on the slogan "VOTE FOR THE CROOK: IT'S IMPORTANT".

    Maybe Republicans don't want to call out their own when it comes to public corruption. That doesn't mean we should emulate that sort of enabling behavior.

    (Read the comments in the SF Chronicle article I linked, and you'll see examples of that, in which it's somehow okay for DeBartolo to have done what he did because hey, the guy put together a winning Super Bowl championship team!)


    It would be nice (none / 0) (#9)
    by NoSides on Wed Feb 19, 2020 at 07:59:03 AM EST
    if Manning and Assange could find their way into some sort of relief from persecution.